Game of Thrones (2011)
Game of Thrones: House Stark’s Ancient Hidden Truths and Dark Origins
By: Domonique Cox-Salberg
From the beginning, we know the Stark family as Ned, Catelyn, Robb, Jon, Sansa, Arya, Bran, and Rickon, where throughout the series, they become the undecided “good guys” for many of us. However, if we look at their ancient legends featured in the books and a closer look into their practices, their unassumingly noble image begins to gray. The truth is, the Starks are more accustomed to brutality and magic than we may think, and it is clear from the start.
Quick jump to the following sections:
- Winter Came and Winter Fell
- Kings of Winter
- The Female White Walker
- Black Gate at Nightfort
- Armored in Black Ice
Such as how Ned requires his sons to watch as he beheads a deserter, having dire wolves as pets who would later form enigmatic bonds with the Stark children, Arya becoming a Faceless assassin, the prophesized undead warrior-king Jon, and of course Bran’s godlike Warging powers. Every one of these manifestations points to how House Stark is indeed tied to the ancient secrets of Winterfell, the Wall, White Walkers, and the Night King.
The First Men of Westeros
From the first episode and first novel, Ned can be found saying, “our way is the older way. The blood of the First Men still flows in the veins of the Starks” (Eddard Stark, in Bran I, AGOT). And we are told they are “a line eight thousand years old” (Sansa IV, ACOK), after the Long Night when the White Walkers “came for the first time.” According to many legends, white Walkers were defeated by “the last hero” with the children of the forest or by Azor Ahi with a flaming sword. Either way, the Walkers went away, and Brandon the Builder raised the Wall to keep them out.
Brandon also built Winterfell and started House Stark, who ruled as Kings of Winter for thousands of years. But paradise ended once more when a people called the Andals invaded Westeros from across the sea; they “came with steel and fire and the seven-pointed star of the new gods” (Bran VII, AGOT). They brought a new religion and culture, and only the Northerners resisted them, referring to the Starks; “his own gods were the old ones.” (Catelyn I, AGOT).
Winter Came and Winter Fell
That is why the Starks have kept the customs of the First Men among all the Houses, worshiping the old gods and keeping alive things others have forgotten. Even their warning House Stark words, “Winter is Coming,” bind them in the fight against the White Walkers. The name of the First Men’s castle further hints at the defeat of the White Walkers—where winter fell. Then, in their traditional crown and what the Walkers are said to hate: “nine black iron spikes…bronze and iron were metals of winter dark and strong to fight against the cold.” (Catelyn I, ACOK) / “They were cold things, dead things that hated iron” (Bran IV, AGOT). These iron swords live on and below the Winterfell crypts with the dead Starks.
Kings of Winter
As for the Kings and Stark men that wield these iron swords, we are told they are not like other men. That they are “made of ice” (Petyr Baelish, in Eddard IV, AGOT) / “Starks were not like other men” / “Starks were made for the cold” (Catelyn II, AGOT). Old Stark Kings included Brandon “Ice Eyes,” and King Edrick “Snowbeard,” where they named their sword Ice—just like the White Walkers. “Winter is Coming” seems even more like a threat considering what they named their weapons and how the North was violently conquered by the ancient Starks and not by accident.
Kingdom by kingdom, slaughtering men, stealing wives, wiping out entire Houses, these Starks were the bad guys who did “terrible things, but they were Starks every one” (Bran VII, ACOK). The ancient Starks is not only eerily described like the White Walkers physically, but their weapon of choice, iron swords, as seen in the crypts and mentioned earlier, reveal another connection. We were told, “the iron in the sword kept the spirits of the dead locked within their tombs” (The Turncloak, ADWD). Why do the Starks lock their ancestors in carved statues in their high lord’s likeness? It could be because their ancestors are part White Walker and need to be locked in or to conceal their icy heritage from the world.
The Female White Walker
Moreover, the oldest Nightford legend is another component that strongly connects the Starks to the Night King. The show and books legend are a bit different, however. In the books, the Night King was Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch, and he came across a woman with skin cold as ice and eyes like blue stars—a description akin to a White Walker. Soon after they married and together, they ruled. “When he gave his seed to her he gave his soul as well.” (Bran IV, ASOS).
While they ruled, “it was found he had been sacrificing to the Others” (Bran IV, ASOS), like how “Craster gave his sons to the gods” (Samwell II, ASOS). After thirteen years of ruling, they were cast down and destroyed by the Stark King, Brandon the Breaker. The “Night’s King name was wiped from the memory of man.” (Bran IV, ASOS). It may be why the Stark’s, or any are not aware of their relationship; nonetheless, Old Nan says that the Night King was the brother of Brandon the Breaker—that the Night King “was a Stark of Winterfell.” (Bran IV, ASOS). The legend, therefore, suggests an ancient Stark married and bore children with a White Walker.
Black Gate at Nightfort
Even though we cannot completely trust these old legends as no one knows what happened thousands of years ago, the stories are there to give us hints. And some people question all that we know of the Long Night, Age of Heroes, and the Dawn Age as it was recorded by septons thousands of years after it all happened. “There are archmaester at the Citadel who question all of it…Brandon the Builder, Symeon Star-Eyes, Night’s King” (Samwell I, AFFC). We can take from this legend that there likely was an instance or many involving something of a White Walker and their relationship to the men at the Wall.
Especially if we consider the magic, secret, Black Gate at the Nightfort; made of a living weirwood face at the bottom of a deep dark well, it lets Watchmen through the Wall. “A hidden gate, as old as the Wall itself” (Bran IV, ASOS). It sounds like the perfect and planned place to secretly give babies to White Walkers. Even more, telling are the stories of Nightfort that speak of killed people in line to become wights as a “thing that came in the night…boys were seen shambling along behind it, all in chains.” Furthermore, there are mentions of a knight with eyes like blue stars. Out of all the legends, the oldest points back to sacrifice and marriage to the White Walkers.
Armored in Black Ice
Still, a popular theory is that the Walkers were not just defeated, but there was a peace agreement: a female Walker’s marriage to the Stark King. As did Craster manage a tradeoff, the books further hint at female offerings for peace or the result of defeat. “the last Barrow King bent his knee to the King of Winter, and gave him the hand of his daughter in marriage” (TWOIAF).
So with the information that we do have, I believe Brandon the Breaker killed his brother and took their half White Walker baby to Winterfell and raised him as his own—just like Ned did for Lyanna with Jon. As like they did in the Bael the Beard story where the son of a wildling was raised as a Stark of Winterfell. “So there it is—you have Bael’s blood in you” (Ygritte, in Jon VI, ACOK). Possibly, over time, the Night Queen’s blood faded but still lingers in some of the present Starks to explain why they have this magical quality to them.
Knowing a little more about the Stark’s ancient secrets, one of the biggest cliffhangers in A Dance With Dragons, presents another possibility. That Jon could die and come back as a White Walker. Maybe he will sacrifice himself to them or through a marriage pact to save all of Westeros. Alternatively, become the new Night King as it is said, “Jon was armored in black ice” (Jon XII, ASWD). But who knows. Jon’s tragic journey has very much been about choosing between duty, love, fire, and ice, so things get pretty complicated. I guess we have to wait and see if these ancient Stark secrets could be key to the ending of A Song of Ice and Fire.
What are your theories? Do you think there is truth to these legends? Will they play a part in the series ending?